Saturday, 12 January 2013

2013 Ernst von Siemens Music Prize goes to Mariss Jansons

The Ernst von Siemens Musikpreis, considered the most prestigious award in the German-speaking classical music world, is split fairly evenly between composers and musicians with the odd token musicologist acknowledged every decade or so. In honouring performers the prize aspires to recognize a certain intellectual contribution and so Mariss Jansons counts as one of the more unusual choices in recent years, in that his musical intellect is chiefly preoccupied with thought in music. To see this as a departure one need only look at other conductors among the previous recipients, whose careers also encompass thought, whatever one might be inclined to think of it, on music: Boulez, Harnoncourt, Barenboim, Gielen. Inadvertently or otherwise the Ernst von Siemens Musikstiftung has also dragged Viennese musical politics into the decision, as the chair of their jury and president of the board of trustees is none other than Musikverein Intendant Thomas Angyan, a figure so closely allied with Jansons professionally and personally that the only way for him to play a plausibly neutral role in this process would have been through recusal once Jansons’ name was admitted to the short list. Whether the foundation or Herr von Angyan, as he is known in Switzerland, will be interested in offering such a clarification is another matter.

The prize money has been increased this year by 50,000 euros to 250,000 euros, and just as Barenboim directed the bulk of his Siemens award to renovation work at the Staatsoper Unter den Linden, Jansons will be donating his 250k to the construction of a new concert hall to supplant Munich’s Gasteig. 

Image credit: Manu Theobald, from the obligatory Ernst von Siemens photo shoot

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